Fashion and interior design cross paths every now and again, but the relationship is a nuanced one that designer Denise McGaha understands well. Her experience, working first at Neiman Marcus and later as the principal of her own interior design firm, has taught her that color is pivotal to both types of design. She discusses the roots of her color inspiration, and how she embodies her clients’ personalities in her designs.
Q: What’s your of-the-moment palette?
A: We’re using whites that are not as bright; they’re creamier. And brown is coming back. We’re going with what I call a “Mississippi Mud” palette—camel and leathers—and punching it up with mustards and greens. It allows us to really express earthy tones, and vibrant colors feel less garish.
Q: Do your favorite interior design palettes translate to how you dress?
A: I’m wearing loafers, olive khakis, and a mustard yellow top— and that’s really where I am right now.
Q: How does that sensibility translate to your work with clients?
A: When working with clients, I look at their hair and complexion, and how they dress themselves. One of my clients is a brilliant redhead with emerald green eyes, so we incorporated corals and deep olive greens in our design to complement her tone and personality. I am always thinking about how my clients will look in their home, but I think there’s a psychology to color, because you’re not just pleasing one person—usually, you’re pleasing everyone in the family.
Q: How do you make a statement?
A: I’m a Southern designer, so in my work, warmth, layers, and entertainment are at the forefront. I love wallpaper—prints with botanicals, and everything and anything with an Asian or global flair. Blush against darker colors in florals is bold, but can still look feminine and soft. For the past five years or so we’ve been seeing a lot of boxy, modern architecture. I’m opting for decor choices that warm things up, which includes adding trim and elements that soften hard lines.
Q: You work with Currey & Co. as a brand ambassador. How do you see color trends reflected in the lighting world?
A: Lighting finishes have really shifted from chrome and silver to brass, nickel, and golds. Warm metals are very in fashion.
“I want my clients to look pretty in the spaces they live in. The colors people look good in for clothing are usually what makes them look good in a room.” —DESIGNER DENISE McGAHA